Deluge: Gaza and Israel from Crisis to Cataclysm, ed. Jamie Stern-Weiner (O/R Books, 2024), 320pp. Deluge: Gaza and Israel from Crisis to Cataclysm, ed. Jamie Stern-Weiner (O/R Books, 2024), 320pp.

Deluge is a sharp and informative analysis of the Palestine issue, helpful to those new to the movement and energising also for the more experienced, finds Kevin Crane

I had not heard the term ‘Al-Aqsa Deluge’ before reading this book: it is in fact Hamas’ own codename for their armed offensive on 7 October last year. It is a horribly apt title in so many ways, in that it accurately conveys the sense of massive pressures finally having been released. The events since then have moved with terrifying speed. The genocide so many of us had long feared would occur in Palestine is finally being realised, and the world order is utterly shaken.

One of the experiences I have had in this past half-year has been meeting large numbers of people who have felt moved to join the Palestine solidarity movement for the first time, many of whom feel that they should really have done so sooner and wish that they knew more about the conflict. We can’t do much about the former sentiment – you’re here now, and that’s all that counts – but for the latter, I am pleased to say this book might be a great help.

You could forgive Deluge: Gaza and Israel from Crisis to Cataclysm for being a slightly rough production, given the understandable urgency with which it’s been published, but it’s not. This is a concise, punchy book that delivers a series of extremely useful essays from a range of contributors that I can heartly urge people in the entire movement to read.

Outlines of apartheid

The book opens with the background to the conflict. Veteran dissident Israeli historian Avi Shlaim begins things with the basics. Many of us will have read his historical analysis of the foundation of the State of Israel before, but as mentioned, plenty of new activists have not. Therefore, his recapping the brutal logic of a very self-aware colonial political movement, and its imposition of systemic ethnic cleansing on the indigenous people of the region, is a highly necessary primer for what follows.

The insights into the bitter realities of Palestinian life constructively explain much more than just the levels of suffering that the people have experienced. A chapter on ‘Econocide’ might be a little on the technical side for some, but it is a very comprehensive explanation of how day-to-day life for Palestinians simply does not work as an intentional result of Israeli policy. The subsequent chapters discussing the various forms of resistance that Palestinians have used, both peaceful and armed struggle, are probably the best accounts of that history I’ve read.

As the book progresses, we receive life accounts from Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank respectively. These are both poignant, but they also give a powerful sense of how hard resisting colonialism really is and the human cost of the struggle. Palestinians have been absolutely crushed in Gaza but they are, in a very different way, bound and constrained in the West Bank, as a deliberate consequence of the Israelis turning the two different occupied territories into different worlds.

Military mindsets

The book manages to tackle the military thinking on both sides of the conflict – plus those some of the wider regional actors – with a well-argued analysis based on the evidence available. These parts can’t have been easy to write, given the at times barely believable brutality being described. In a chapter literally headed ‘Targeting Civilians’, the Israeli peace activist Yaniv Cogan writes:

‘Former acting director of Israel’s National Security Council, Ya’acov Nagel, explained that the “‘day after’ question, important as it may be, is secondary to the current war … We must not let thinking about the “day after” lead or influence our strategy during the fighting, or hinder the completion of our mission” (p.108).’

It is extremely difficult to accommodate yourself to a mentality that is literally waging war as if there were no tomorrow, and we should be thankful these writers have taken on the job, so we don’t have to. Some of the hardest parts of the book to read are the shocking statements by leading Israeli political and military figures.

The chapters on the ideological and strategic thinking of Hamas are also refreshingly clear and demystifying. Without conceding whatsoever to some romanticised, or even sanitised, view of the Islamic Resistance Movement, the authors show that we can determine a clear nationalist agenda from the organisation’s words and deeds. Qatar-based academic Kaled Hroub actually manages to capture something of a sense of pathos in his essay ‘Nothing Fails Like Success’, in which he argues that Hamas has suffered from a recurring issue of victory crises.

They didn’t realise they’d replace the secular nationalist Fatah party as the de facto leadership in Gaza when they founded themselves. They didn’t realise they’d massively win the 2006 Palestinian elections when they established a political wing. We can be fairly sure they had no idea that 7 October would so totally catch the Israeli security forces off guard, nor that their guerillas would kill and capture so many Israelis. The text argues that Hamas’ calculations have been driven by a desire to avoid the defeats and compromises that they perceive Fatah to have made, often without a serious belief in, or plan for, if and when their strategies have significant consequences. In their own way, they wage war as if tomorrow wasn’t coming, and are then constantly surprised when it arrives.

Hroub emphasises that the decisions made by Hamas commanders, however violent they may be, are driven by fairly prosaic thinking:

‘Hamas’s decision- making has often been linked to the regional situation (the desire to energize the “resistance camp” or disrupt Saudi-Israeli normalization). If regional politics was indeed the driver, Hamas may have miscalculated. But the October 7 attack was far more likely geared first and foremost to the Palestinian arena, where there is pressure to engage in resistance and where the national leadership is bankrupt. There was also a long-held understanding within Hamas that its truncated and blockaded republic of Gaza was not a tolerable outcome. This led some leaders within the movement to drag the rest of Hamas into uncharted waters’ (p.173).

This is the reason why they are so unlike Al Qaeda and ISIS, to whom Israeli apologists spuriously compare them. Hamas ultimately see their own actions as patriotism for their country, rather than pursuing an endless baroque war against abstract concepts like ‘modernity’.

Call to action

The final chapters pull away from Palestine as a location to discuss the international solidarity movement. We get accounts from both America and Britain, but not any other countries in detail. I will admit that I feel we could have done with something from the non-Anglophone world, even if it was very bleak reports from a country like Germany were the state basically smashed popular solidarity with Palestinians from the get-go. I can, however, imagine that was a challenge with the tight deadline to which they were working.

The American chapter is very strong on some hugely important details, such as the way that extremely efficient propaganda machines are used on, and make use, of the USA’s large Jewish population. The demonisation of Muslim and Middle Eastern populations is simply the flipside of this, and a ‘zero-sum’ game has been created in America between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

What does take your breath away, however, is the sheer malevolence of the US government, and President Biden in particular. His material support for Israeli genocide has been absolutely crucial to the committing of the crime: it is not simply that he will not stop the Israeli government, they rely on him for their actions. That so many Americans are finally rebelling against the platitudinous complicity of the Democratic Party is a cause for some hope in the world.

The British chapter felt a bit more askew to me. It is not a bad summary of the political situation in the UK, as such, and it would give someone overseas something of the fascinating disconnects between the reality that the public understands and the one that the country’s political-media establishment pretends that it lives inside. However, the piece studiously avoids discussing any of the organisations that have formed the backbone of popular opposition to warmongering in Britain (something the US chapter didn’t do) and I can’t help but feel references to Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign are rather glaring in their absence. This is not a trivial issue, since the strength of the movement in the UK is a direct result of the continuity and unity of the anti-war and pro-Palestine movements that have been sustained by these organisations for over twenty years.

The final chapter comes from the Irish socialist politician Clare Daly, a member of the European parliament. She focuses in on the astonishingly undemocratic way that the European Union has been used as a vehicle for extreme pro-Israel positions that have no popular mandate, and about which even mainstream politicians are highly concerned. This story is a great way to explain how the international establishment gets away with manufacturing consent for literally the worst crimes. Daly also closes the book on a very strong note:

‘In Gaza, and in the callous indifference of Europe’s political class to its fate, we catch a glimpse of the darkness ahead. That is why the emergence of mass consciousness from these events is so important. Palestine is our future. Its people are ours. We have to fight for them’ (p.247).

Good advice to end with, and definitely words that would leave the reader feeling ready and prepared to keep building the movement.

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